CWAC holds heritage crime conference

Cheshire West & Chester Council is hosting a seminar on heritage crime at the Bishop Lloyd's Palace in Chester on Friday.

The council said around 50 professionals working in a law enforcement and a historical environment will attend the seminar titled 'Prevention and Detection of Heritage Crime'.

Cheshire West added that soaring values of second hand scrap metal, destined for China and India, have led to a spate of thefts from historic buildings and monuments across the borough.

Heritage crimes logged in the past year include 14 attacks on churches, as well as war memorials and manor houses to Chester's Roman remains, Beeston Castle, and The Rows.

For instance, on evening of 12 July this year, thieves stole £2,500 worth of lead from a roof near St Anselm's Chapel at Chester Cathedral.

The council said Chester's Grade 1-listed St John's Church, built in the 11th century, is subjected to repeated graffiti. Chester Renaissance has invested around £250,000 recently on improving the area, removing graffiti and mending broken fencing. Much of the graffiti is on ancient sandstone, which is expensive to clean.

Elsewhere, the Grade 2-listed Hapsford Hall Barn, was set on fire last October. The council said the building is still standing and discussions about possible change of use are ongoing.

Cheshire West said thieves have plundered lead, copper and bronze from ancient roofs; bronze and brass plaques commemorating those who died fighting for their country; cast iron guttering and downspouts and even a church bell, weighing 180 kg and first rung in the days of the Commonwealth.

Ruth Purdie, assistant chief constable of Cheshire, will open the seminar which will be led by chief inspector Mark Harrison, Policing advisor to English Heritage for the heritage crime initiative.

Cllr Hilarie McNae, from Cheshire West & Chester Council, said: "Whatever the cause, heritage crime is taking a terrible toll on the conservation of our ancient buildings and monuments and as the caretakers of thousands of years of history we have a responsibility to do everything we can to stop it.

"It has frequently been said that Chester's future is intrinsically linked with its past and we must obviously protect the heritage that brings so many visitors to our city and Borough and boosts the economy of both."

In February this year, Cheshire West & Chester Council signed up to an alliance with the police, Crown Prosecution Service and English Heritage to prevent crimes that damage historic buildings as part of a national crackdown on thieves and vandals targeting Britain's national treasures.

Cheshire West & Chester Council said the objectives of the seminar on Friday 28 October will be to identify the challenges, opportunities and risks facing those involved in this partnership against the threat to the city's national treasures.

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